Dr. Starnes is a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery. As the founding Executive Director of the USC CardioVascular Thoracic Institute, Dr. Starnes has built an interdisciplinary powerhouse comprised of clinicians and basic scientists who are exploring better and more innovative ways of treating heart disease. Under his leadership, USC surgeons have conducted more than 15,000 open heart surgeries to repair and replace valves or create coronary artery bypasses, and more than 10,000 surgeries for diseases of the lungs, esophagus and chest wall.
Dr. Starnes earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and did his general surgery training at Vanderbilt University, where he also completed two years of research in cardiothoracic physiology and pharmacology. He completed two years at Stanford University as a resident in cardiovascular surgery, and one year as chief resident in cardiac transplantation under the mentorship of cardiothoracic transplant pioneer Dr. Norman Shumway.
Dr. Starnes accepted a fellowship in pediatric cardiovascular surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in London (Now the Great Ormond Street Hospital) in 1987. When he returned to Stanford, he was appointed director of Stanford's heart-lung transplantation program. He joined USC in July 1992 and was appointed Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in 1997 and Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 2008.
Dr. Starnes pioneered the living-related double lobar lung transplant in 1993. He and his surgical team also performed Southern California's first robotic heart operation in 2001 as part of the clinical trial evaluating the use of a remote surgical system. He has an ongoing interest in congenital heart disease and in minimally invasive repair and replacement of the valves of the heart.
In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Starnes is a distinguished researcher. He is actively involved in exploring stem-cell therapy for heart failure and congenital heart defects and in clinical trials investigating new valve technology, including percutaneous heart valve replacement.
Dr. Starnes is the current Vice President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. He will be the 100th president of the AATS in 2019-2020.